Portraits from A Conversation at the Table (detail), 2006.
Portraits from A Conversation at the Table (detail), 2006.

Lonnie Graham:

A Conversation at the Table

April 8, 2006–September 16, 2006

Opening Reception:
Friday, 7 April 2006, 6:00 p.m.

Exploring the mind, body, and spirit as essential to our common humanity, Lonnie Graham, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, presents A Conversation at the Table. The nexus for a number of Philadelphia arts organizations, each individual and participating group has addressed one of these three aspects of our commonality. The commitment, introspection, and generosity of more than 50 participating artists, craftspeople and contributing community members culminated at an opening performance at The Fabric Workshop and Museum on Friday, 7 April 2006. Artists, performers, and gallery visitors gathered around the handcrafted Ghanaian Sapele wood table to take part in an event led by Lonnie Graham.

In addition to the opening evening's events A Conversation at the Table will feature performances and interventions to take place throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Photographers, sculptors, and sound designers have collaborated to create The Contemplative Mind, a meditative chamber within the exhibition's gallery. The ambiance of the intimate setting is enriched with sound recordings captured from various encounters. A video projection located just outside the meditation chamber plays an ongoing stream of visual consciousness. The Triptych of Acknowledgment engages the public in an innovative dialogue using three unique and distinctive methods that simultaneously transcend and unite the mind, body, and spirit conjunction.

First Memories provides a place for viewers to annotate their first memories of life. Collected through the course of the exhibition on small cards provided in the gallery, memories will be documented as lasting testaments that transform visitors into participants.

Respond in Kind, will occur in the weeks following the opening event. Using the postal service, this project endows selected patrons with an original hand printed, stamped photographic postcard with the opportunity to acknowledge and endow a significant individual with the knowledge of their appreciation.

The Unspoken Truth will engage individuals at random in a brief conversation about who they consider their most cherished individual. Video documentation of these encounters will be presented in the gallery.

Secret Family Recipes, conducted in collaboration with the Asian Arts Initiative, is an innovative and sensitive exploration of issues relative to the body, centering on healing, sharing and service to others. This project seeks to divulge and share the uses of normally sequestered home remedies to serve the needs of others. In cooperation with community gardens, recipes will be reproduced and posted at 7 locations in the greater Philadelphia area. Maps will be imprinted onto napkins and distributed among museum visitors. In addition to the Secret Family Recipes project, young members of Asian Arts Initiative will visit The Fabric Workshop and Museum to fabricate a table runner imprinted with names of acknowledged and significant individuals.

On the evening of the exhibition's opening, members of the "Expressions of Love" choir administered vessels fashioned for the Seed Bowl Project. Museum visitors selected at random by the choir were given a small bowl or vessel containing a wish, or heirloom herbal seeds meant to be planted and shared. The exhibition also features Taller Puertorriqueño's The Human Exercise, a theatrical work that illustrates our common bond.

Political Fruit addresses issues of nutrition, hunger, and health. During the exhibition's opening and for its duration, small bundles of fresh fruit will be wrapped in hand screened scarves and distributed to those neglected individuals in need who inhabit the streets and alleyways of Philadelphia.

Artists and community members participating in the Spirit Vessel project, carried out with the generous participation of the Clay Studio, fabricated and contributed dozens of bowls as symbolic metaphors.


Lives and works in Pennsylvania.

A Pew Fellow, Graham's extensive teaching experience includes his position as Professor of Visual and Integrative Arts at Pennsylvania State University and instructor of special programs at the Barnes Foundation in Marion Pennsylvania. He acts as a visiting instructor of Graduate Studies at San Francisco Art Institute and was Visiting Professor at Haverford College. Mr. Graham was Curator in Residence for Three Rivers Arts Festival, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and serves as active site visitor for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Graham attended Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and took advanced degrees at San Francisco Art Institute.

Lonnie Graham has been commissioned by a number of arts organizations to initiate projects, including Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh for the African/American Garden Project that facilitated a physical and cultural exchange between disadvantaged urban single mothers, an elderly African-American community, and farmers from the small farming village in Muguga, Kenya; The Fabric Workshop and Museum to document the harvest of the Woowoosi tree used in the production of Tapa cloth that is fashioned into ceremonial dress and used as traditional currency by the Maisen tribes people (and resulted in an exchange between the tribe and Fabric Workshop and Museum staff); the Spoleto Festival, Charleston, South Carolina resulting in the project Enlightenment, Acknowledgement and Memorlization; and The Andy Warhol Museum to participate in the exhibition Without Sanctuary. His photo credits include co-authorship of the book, Thaddeus Mosley, African American Sculptor, and he has designed a number of limited editions and catalogues, including an edition of his own work produced in photogravure, Friendship, Strength, and Vitality. His work is in local and national collections including the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Schomberg Center in New York.

Graham's work can also be found in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Delaware Museum of Art in Wilmington, Delaware; the Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan; and the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts. He is of course the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a National Endowment for the Arts/Pew Charitable Trust Travel Grantee; and a three time Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowship winner.